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The Great Fire

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,677 Ratings  ·  218 Reviews
Jim Murphy's Newbery Honor Book available for the first time in paperback.

"Vivid firsthand descriptions by persons who lived through the 1871 Chicago fire are woven into a gripping account... Absorbing and riveting reading." The Horn Book, starred review
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Scholastic Paperbacks (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kelly O'toole
This is a non-fiction, award winning account of the Great Chicago Fire. Being a Chicagoan and a history undergraduate major, I found this topic most interesting. Most people are aware of the legend that the fire was started when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a bucket, but Murphy unravels the history of this fire and reasons behind it. Interesting one can attribute this breadth of this tragedy to class discrimination, as the fire started in a working class neighborhood, thereby perhaps not ...more
S. J.
May 14, 2013 S. J. rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone (children within the recommended age limts however)
Recommended to S. by: The Author (courtesy of another book)
*5 Stars*

Before reading another of his Children's history books, I had written off non-fiction history books labeled for Children or YA because...they JUST WEREN'T GOOD! They wrote down to their readers, as if people without at least a college education couldn't hope to comprehend anything "history". I learned history on my dad's knee and he never talked down to me. So I skipped YA and children's and when straight to reading adult books. Some were extremely difficult to get through and I never g
Errin Tucker
Apr 13, 2012 Errin Tucker rated it it was amazing
This book is nonfiction and is written for more Advanced reader. This book is a Newberry Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book and NCTE Orbis Pictus Award winner for Outstanding Nonfiction.

This story was written for more advanced readers such as 5th grade and above. This story is about the major Chicago fire in 1871 that changed the lives of people forever.

I rated this story with 5 stars. There were some pictures that were hand drawn and some photographs. The story was told in
This is a very different version of the story of the Chicago Fire than I have ever heard before. It uses real accounts from various people, photos, maps, and artifacts to tell the story of the errors, mistakes, and confusion that made the Chicago Fire the infamous disaster it became. Listening to this book had both its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage was the way it was read. Listening to the various accounts of actual people who were involved in the Chicago Fire read with such energy ...more
May 19, 2016 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So the story we think we know is NOT the story.
Murphy tells the story of the Great Chicago Fire through the people who were affected. The story is centered on four witnesses to these events -- two very journalists, a visitor, and a 12-year-old girl who is separated from her family as they were fleeing from the fire.
Murphy presents an overview of events leading up to the outbreak as well as the series of mistakes at the outset that allowed the fire to get out of hand. He captures the panic, the
Mar 31, 2014 Bethany rated it really liked it
I still remember when I read "Blizzard" by Jim Murphy. It was August and I was working on a siding job in the blistering sun in the hot hot heat. Haha, very interesting timing to read a book about people freezing to death and 20 feet of snow etc...

Now I'm in Mongolia. How appropriate if I could say it was one of those great -30 degree days.. However, it is March, and it was lovely Spring weather. Oh well. Bad timing.

Anyway, who knew that it WASN'T Mrs. O'Leary's cow that started the great Chicag
Feb 05, 2010 Mallory rated it really liked it
Awards Won: Newbery Honor (1996)

As someone who is not a native Chicagoan, I found this book very fascinating and educational. The photographs that accompanied the narrative provided a great mental image of the destruction that Chicago faced that tragic night.

I think that this would be a great book to use when third graders learn about Chicago. The book is definitely appropriate for older readers, but could be used for a whole group read-aloud to engage the students. Other content areas could al
Kimba Tichenor
Jun 27, 2016 Kimba Tichenor rated it really liked it
This popular history reconstructs the story of the 1871 Chicago Fire largely from the perspective of those who were there. The author utilizes these first-hand accounts to highlight how a series of human errors and prejudices led to the fire's rapid spread, despite the fact at the time Chicago had one of the most sophisticated fire alarm systems of that era. This account is both entertaining and informative and is well worth the read.
Sep 26, 2012 Brandon rated it it was ok
This book is good for people who are interested in history, or how it happened. It was a good book but, I'm not really into history books. It jumps around a lot, so I found it really hard to know from who's point of view it was coming from.
Jul 16, 2009 Kristen rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-kids
Although my children & I learned about the Chicago fire from this book, we all found it to be, for the most part, very dry & boring. How many different ways can you say that a fire spread?
Emily Garrison
Oct 12, 2016 Emily Garrison rated it liked it
This book is a Newbery Award winner. I loved the topic (the Chicago Fire of 1871). It was all told by a person who had compiled evidence and people's accounts of the fire.

The theme of "The Great Fire" in my mind's eye, was three pronged. One theme which was apparent to me was how not paying attention to detail and worrying about how others will judge you if a mistake is made, will eventually lead to a job poorly done. It was not the firemen on the front line who were making these mistakes, it w
Carlie Broekhuijsen
Dec 06, 2016 Carlie Broekhuijsen rated it liked it
Shelves: engl-420
I was familiar with the devastating event that was the Great Fire, but this novel gave an enhanced perspective into the details that transpired with first-hand narratives and action that bring the fire to life through an exiting narrative. Beginning on a Sunday evening, a small fire broke out in a barn, but gradually the fire grew and spread. Due to how common of an occurrence fires were during the time, many people did not adhere to the warnings. The city primarily made
Ian Raffaele
Nov 15, 2016 Ian Raffaele rated it liked it
The Great Fire is a good primer history book for middle school students. Murphy follows 4 contemporary Chicago inhabitants as they experience the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The reader gets a fair glimpse of the chain of events that led to the city's destruction. It is detailed without being overwhelming for a younger audience. The book also examines common misconceptions about the fire and the people involved. I would highly recommend this book for any budding student of history, especially if ...more
Alex Wingrove
Nov 16, 2016 Alex Wingrove rated it liked it
Shelves: childrens-lit
This book describes the great Chicago fire of 1871, which demolished almost the entire city of Chicago. The fire had started in someone's barn and wasn't contained until 30 hours later, and everyone was just running away.
I thought this book was alright, but fires just scare me so it wasn't my favorite.
I think this would be good to read in a class because it gives history of a very famous city, and I'm sure many students wouldn't have already known about the crazy fire that happened so long ago
Paulette Crabiel Wahler
Oct 16, 2016 Paulette Crabiel Wahler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
I heard through Audiobook - EJersey Library - came across by accident while looking for a non-fiction book. I picked because it was short, only 7 chapters, while I tried to figure out next book to listen too. The narration was great - the story line was so interesting, learning about how they fought the Chicago Fire and actual accounts from real people. It held my interest at all times, in fact sometimes I went back and reheard parts because of distractions while walking. The funny thing is, I ...more
Nov 23, 2016 Ryan rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was a pretty good look at a crazy huge fire!
Feb 04, 2013 Heemin rated it liked it
The Great Fire
by Jim Murphy
144 pages

A story on the Great Chicago Fire that left the town in ruins, it follows a few people and their accounts on the fire. It begins by stating that from the beginning, there were many factors stacked against them when the fire started. From the beginning, Chicago was highly flammable; almost all the buildings were made of wood, the roofs made of tar or shingles; the lots small and almost entirely filled with wooded outhouses, sheds, or barns; and walkwa
Erin Ramai
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy is appropriate for children in grades 5-9. It received a Newbery Honor Award in 1996. I listened to the Playaway audio version of this text.

The true story of the Chicago Fire of 1871 is a series of mistakes, almost to the point of being a comedy of errors. However, the destruction and the devastation were very real. The city was made almost entirely of wood and because there had been a drought and a fierce wind blowing, the fire was nearly impossible to contain. Peop
Oct 16, 2011 Ashley rated it really liked it
Originally reviewed on my blog, Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing along with another of Murphy's Newbery Honor titles, An American Plague.

I believe Jim Murphy to be a pretty much perfect writer of non-fiction for children. His writing is very easy to follow, easy to understand but it isn't basic. He doesn't dumb the history down, or assume that his readers are going to be stupid. And, something I believe to be very important when writing history for young kids- he tells the history like a st
May 01, 2014 Dawn rated it really liked it
The Great fire is nonfiction book by Jim Murphy. This is a Newberry Honor Book as well as the Boston Globe-Horn Book. The book has won awards such as NCTE Orbis Pictus and Sibert as well because of its exceptional nonfiction. I would suggest advanced readers of 6th grade and above to read this book and I would rate it 4 stars, because I feel it will appeal to some not all young readers.
The book is all about the main Chicago fire in the year 1871 where people’s lives were totally changed, since i
Stephanie Gulliver
Oct 23, 2012 Stephanie Gulliver rated it it was amazing
Summary: A Newbery Honor book, The Great Fire shows from beginning to end of how the Chicago fire took place. Starting at a barn on the West side and spreading throughout the city, this book shows the mistakes made during this tragic event. With maps and pictures, this book goes into every detail of what exactly took place. The personal stories in this book are what make it so real. This book will put you in the place of all these people. You can see what it was like to feel the hurt, fear, and ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Rachael rated it really liked it
Shelves: edci-555
The Great Fire, Written by Jim Murphy, 1995, Nonfiction

The Great Fire is a nonfiction book about the Great Fire of 1871 that ravaged the city of Chicago. The text combines first hand accounts with facts and the known historical timeline to tell this event as if it were a story. Drawings, maps, and photographs are spread throughout the book with informative captions and source information. This book could be used to explain the difference between primary and secondary sources. This book would be
Caitlyn Su
Dec 03, 2015 Caitlyn Su rated it really liked it
The Great Fire by Jim Murphy, it is about one of the greatest disasters in the American History. This disaster all began one Sunday evening inside a barn at 137 De Koven Street. It started out as a small fire, but with the weather and the massive use of wood for structures. It turned into a huge fire and forced nearly 100,000 people to be homeless. Overnights, the flourishing city of Chicago was transformed into a wasteland. This book, is a non fiction book, which tells the true story of the ...more
Aug 25, 2012 Tamara rated it liked it

Review: The great fire
Editorial Review - Kirkus Reviews
A veritable cinematic account of the catastrophe that decimated much of Chicago in 1871, forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes. Murphy (Night Terrors, 1993) tells the story through the eyes of several survivors. He focuses on real-life people such as the O'Learys, in whose barn the fire began; James Hildreth, a politician who thought the best way to stop the fire was to blow up houses in its path and create a ""fire b
Nora Alomari
Nov 19, 2012 Nora Alomari rated it really liked it
Grade Level Interest: 3rd-5th grade
Lexile Level: 1130L
Genre: Information Book

Main Characters: None
Setting: Chicago
POV: none

This is an informational text that is appealing to young children that talks about The Great Fire that occurred in Chicago in 1871. The book talks about this historical event, how it all stated, and how it would it shape Chicago into the city it is today. It explains that how back in those days controlling fires was difficult and especially in city that was made out of wood
Sep 07, 2014 Christina rated it really liked it
Readers can count on Jim Murphy for meticulous research presented in an engaging manner. As a lifelong Chicago resident, I already knew a lot about the Chicago Fire, but this book taught me much that I didn't know. For example, although I knew that Mrs. O'Leary was not actually milking her cow when the fire started in her barn, I did not know that she was, in reality, a young, successful, working class woman in her 30s -- not the old haggard, poverty-stricken, pioneer woman depicted in legend. I ...more
Jennifer Tarr
Nov 20, 2009 Jennifer Tarr rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a solid, relatively quick-to-read documentary of the fire that destroyed Chicago. Murphy's data was facts based on personal accounts of several people—the O’Learys (whose cow, some claim, started the fire), a former alderman, a reporter for the Chicago Evening Post, the Chicago Tribune editor, men and a young girl. His facts were also based on pictures, diagrams and related data (such as notations of what fire alarms had been sounded and when). He organized them in the order of when ...more
Pyrate Queen
Sep 08, 2016 Pyrate Queen rated it it was amazing
This Newbery-Honor award winning book weaves personal accounts with carefully researched dfacts about the Great Fire of 1871 in Chicago. Longed believed to have been started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow, this book focuses not on the cause of the fire but rather the why it spread so far and so fast and who was responsible for its mass destruction. Personal stories are interspersed throughout the book to give it more of a human tragedy feel.
Caroline Siewert
Dec 07, 2015 Caroline Siewert rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book tells the story of the large fire that happened in Chicago in 1871. It is unsure just how the fire started, but regardless the fire devastated the entire city. The fire began and even the fire department could not find where it came from. Pretty soon the entire city was up in flames. It was a really windy day and the wind helped spread the fire even faster than the fire would have usually spread. There were thousands of people that were stuck in the middle of the town just looking at ...more
Four accounts from various citizens, one an 11 year old girl who becomes separated from her family, form the framework of this thorough book on the Great Chicago Fire. Confirming or expanding details from others are also sprinkled throughout the text and serve to give us a feeling that this was an event experienced by the community at large. The book is strong when it sticks with these first person accounts and complements the narrative with illustrations, maps and photographs.

Although a Newber
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an American author of more than 35 nonfiction and fiction books for children, young adults, and general audiences, including more than 30 about American history. He won the Margaret Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 2010 for his contribution in writing for teens. Jim lives in Maplewood, New Jersey, in a hundred-year-old house with his wife Alison Blank, a children’s TV ...more
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“The fire was barely fifteen minutes old. What followed was a series of fatal errors that set the fire free and doomed the city to a fiery death.” 2 likes
“...a single tongue of flame shooting out the side of the O'Learys' barn.
(Where the fire started)”
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